There goes the sun.
Each evening, all across the globe, Mother Nature puts on a stunning light show when the sun sinks below the horizon, signaling the end of another day. The sun’s beams scatter creating a kaleidoscope of pink, orange, and yellow. Each sundown is beautiful and unique in its own way, but a collection of spots across the United States seem to stand out when it comes to enjoying this nightly show.
WHERE: South Carolina
Charleston, South Carolina is no stranger to showcasing vivid pops of bright color—after all, it’s practically known for a certain row of frequently photographed pastel-toned antebellum houses. But the vibrant sunset hues across this entire city take those beautiful sights to a new level. Watch the sun sink at The Beach Club at Charleston Harbor Resort & Marina, which has a gorgeous grand wraparound porch making for a perfect sunset perch and for taking in gorgeous views of the marina, historic sites, and the city skyline. Inland, check out the rooftop of the Mills House in Charleston, which is another great spot to grab a drink and watch the sun go down. At The Loutrel, spend time on the expansive rooftop terrace, which offers stunning views of the city and a happy hour coined “Finest Hour” (for a good reason).
WHERE: New Mexico
The Bell Tower Rooftop Bar at La Fonda on the Plaza is known for its stunning sunsets. For those seeking a secluded spot to cozy up and watch the sun sink down, the Four Seasons Resort Rancho Encantado Santa Fe is set on 57 acres in the foothills of the Sangre de Cristo range. The hotel offers a room called the “Sunset Suite,” named after its expansive, sunset sights from the outdoor terrace.
Those into trekking can check out Picacho Peak for a glorious show of colors at nightfall. The four-mile hike travels to an 8,300-foot peak featuring two different views at the summit: one overlooks the city, the desert, and Albuquerque’s Sandia Peak in the distance, and another with sights across to the Jemez to the west and the forest-green Sangre de Cristos to the northeast.
“Sunset Point” at Bryce Canyon in Utah wasn’t named by accident. This spot boasts panoramic vistas featuring some of the most awesome sights of Bryce Canyon’s iconic hoodoos. On the Navajo Loop trail, as the sun sinks down, the shadows begin to emerge, and the abyss-like black holes in the rock make the canyon appear supernatural. Below the overlook on the northern edge, Thor’s Hammer stands alone against the sky, isolated from the other formations of hoodoos, against the quickly transforming colors of the evening sky.
INSIDER TIPGo inside the canyon an hour before sunset to see the walls brightly illuminated. Even after the sunsets, the stars at Bryce Canyon shine brighter due to the lack of light pollution in the region.
Golden hour in the Greater Phoenix and neighboring Scottsdale regions of Arizona are known to be gorgeous. Since the desert soil is dry, the dust particles floating in the air are scattered, creating sunsets that blaze fiery pink, yellow, red, and orange. Visit the McDowell Sonoran Preserve, which offers 30,580 acres and more than 235 miles of trails in every direction. Climb Piestewa Peak, a steep trek less than 100 feet shorter than Camelback Mountain, where hikers will catch 360-degree views from the summit. At the secluded Boulders Resort & Spa Scottsdale in the high Sonoran Desert Foothills, it feels like the entire sky is putting on a show. Thrill seekers can hop onto a Rainbow Ryders hot air balloon ride to soar right over Phoenix for breathtaking sunset views from up in the sky.
On Maui, the sunsets from the summit of Haleakalā National Park at 10,023 feet of elevation are so remarkable they seem to speak straight to the soul. One of the best places to catch some color on Maui is at Fairmont Kea Lani, which features awesome sights from everywhere on-site—but especially from the shores of Polo Beach, which fronts the Fairmont Kea Lani property.
For dinner, stop into Merriman’s Kapalua, which is recognized as the only oceanfront restaurant in Kapalua and overlooks Kapalua Bay’s scenic Hawaii sunsets. Diners who are feeling especially fancy can visit the restaurant’s dining deck, The Point, which hosts upscale champagne service and raw bar items.
INSIDER TIPDuring whale season from December through April, visitors can almost always see whales breaching and playing in the waters with a stunning sunset behind them.
The Big Horn Mountains and Bighorn National Forest of Sheridan, Wyoming, make for a recreational paradise for nature enthusiasts. It’s also a top spot to catch an epic sunset (sunsets that serve as colorful inspiration for the powerful artistic enclave present in the Sheridan region). On two wheels, choose between one of several scenic routes traveling through the Bighorn National Forest, like the Bighorn Scenic Byway (U.S. 14), which connects the cities of Sheridan and Greybull over 45 miles, or The Cloud Peak Skyway (U.S. 16), which connects the city of Buffalo and the town of Tensleep, crosses the southern Bighorn National Forest and offers breathtaking views of snow-capped peaks along its 45-mile length.
Las Vegas offers some of the most out-of-the-box experiences, including a unique way to watch the sunset. At AREA15, visit LIFTOFF, a 7-minute panoramic ride that lifts guests 130 feet into the sky with a surrounding view of the Las Vegas Strip. Check out High Roller, the tallest observation wheel in North America at 550 feet on the strip itself, showcasing sweeping 360-degree views of the strip and The Valley. The outdoorsy types will like the vantage point from hiking trails at Valley of Fire State Park, where trekkers can see the sky transform into colors of fire against the bright Las Vegas red rocks. The Top of the World at The Strat is known for its sweeping city sights, but at sunset, there’s magic when the sky changes.
Michigan’s famously car-free Mackinac Island sits in the Straits of Mackinac, which is the body that connects Lake Michigan and Lake Huron. Mackinac Island boasts some of the best sunset views, especially from the west of the island, where the sights are framed by the tips of Michigan’s lower and upper peninsulas. Visitors can sit on the shoreline, out on one of the scenic decks, or head out on a boat to take in the sun setting behind the bridge over the Lake Michigan horizon. The historic Grand Hotel’s grounds are a beautiful place to catch the sunset—especially on its enormous, iconic wraparound porch, which serves as a perfect perch to park it with a cocktail and gaze at the sunset.
Alabama Point in Orange Beach is located inside Gulf State Park, offering a gorgeous view for catching the pinks, purples, and oranges of a sun setting into the Gulf of Mexico. Here, visitors can explore more than 6,000 feet of expansive sand, dunes, boardwalks made for strolling, and picnic areas to plop down and see the sights.
In Port Aransas, the Leonabelle Turnbull Birding Center at the Port Aransas Nature Preserve is a fantastic spot to watch the sunset amongst the friendly local wildlife. Or, get out on a paddle board or kayak to watch from the water. Those who want to immerse themselves in a full-length sunset experience fully can embark on a sunset cruise out on the water. For those who seek a sunset on the sand, there are beaches in the Port Aransas area, including Mustang Island State Park to the south, with five miles of distance to stroll and a “Paddle Park Trail” inside the park with three segments of paddling trails equaling over 20 miles to explore via water. Although the park closes at 5 p.m., there are dozens of camping spots to turn a day trip adventure into an overnight sunset excursion.
Greater Los Angeles
Take an ear-popping elevator trip up the InterContinental Los Angeles Downtown, home to the tallest rooftop restaurant in the Western Hemisphere, Spire 73, with open-air 360-degree views. At Griffith Observatory & Park, enjoy the striking sights of Los Angeles and the Hollywood Sign from afar as the sun goes down. Stop at the Santa Monica Pier and the Venice Boardwalk on the coast to watch the sun sink into the ocean. Those who seek seclusion will enjoy a quiet Malibu spot like El Matador State Beach for a spiritual sunset experience. City dwellers can’t miss the trendy rooftop bars of Hollywood like Mama Shelter, Bar Lis, or The Highlight Room—within walking distance from each other—offering an especially elevated sunset. And just past LA’s South Bay, Terranea Resort in Ranchos Palos Verdes offers the chance to see the sun rise and set right on-site due to the peninsula’s unique positioning.
Colorado’s Aspen Snowmass features some gorgeous spots to see the sunset at high altitudes. The especially adventurous can embark on an “uphilling” trip after the mountains close and catch the sunset before skiing or riding down. At Snowmass Village, those who want to sit and relax can visit the hot tubs at the Snowmass Rec Center and enjoy a nice vantage point for the sunset in a cozy atmosphere. In Aspen, those who hike to the observation deck at the Top of Smuggler Mountain Road are met with a treat. For those who’d prefer the boujie route, the Wet Deck at the W Aspen offers spectacular sights of the sinking sun with a cozy firepit, and Plato’s, the restaurant at Aspen Meadows, features delicious food in an upscale atmosphere with gorgeous views of the scenery below.
If Florida is the “sunshine state,” the island of Key West should be known as the “sunset queen.” Here, a not-so-low-key nightly event called “Sunset Celebration” brings the entire town—locals and visitors alike—westbound toward Mallory Square. This gathering is a fantastic and fun vantage point to watch the sun go down and offers easy access to all the boisterously fun restaurants and bars nearby on legendary Duval Street after dark. Nearby, check out Ocean Key Resort & Spa, which offers a front-row seat overlooking the Gulf of Mexico and the Sunset Pier paired with the opportunity to relax and enjoy a drink in hand. For a more casual experience, grab a western-facing brew at The Waterfront Brewery, a craft Brewery at the Historic Key West Bight offering a solid beer selection and a food menu paired with sunset sights.
Even though Massachusetts is on the East Coast, Cape Cod’s geography offers the opportunity to see a beautiful sunset, depending on where you are on this strip of land that stretches into the Atlantic. At Ocean Edge Resort & Golf Club, spectators can watch a vibrant seaside show from the property’s beach bar during the warmer months or see the sky change from Frost Bar, outfitted with heated igloos and twinkling lights during colder weather. On Nantucket, an island just off the Cape Cod coast, Madaket Beach has been consistently ranked among the best places to watch the sunset. On the mainland, Provincetown is a year-round destination for fun, offering many fabulous places to watch the sunset on the Cape Cod National Seashore, including scenic Herring Cove Beach and Race Point Beach.
There’s something indescribably magical about watching the sunset with the Golden Gate Bridge in the foreground and a backlit San Francisco skyline glittering behind it. Watch the show at the Marin Headlands just across the bridge for a special experience. On the west end of the city, visit Ocean Beach, which offers awesome views of the sunset, or nearby Lands End Lookout, which offers many hiking trails and nooks to explore. Like Charmaine’s at the San Francisco Proper, the city’s Rooftop bars are a nice spot for a sunset cocktail session. Those who want an elevated perspective from a place of nature will love sitting atop Twin Peaks, where watchers can see the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, Bay Bridge, and even Oakland from one vantage point.
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